Inter Miami live updates: Messi, Inter Miami open season with 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake

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Year 2 of the Lionel Messi era for Inter Miami has officially begun.

After an extensive global preseason tour that spanned over 24,000 miles and five countries, Inter Miami is home to begin the 2024 MLS regular season Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake.

Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba enter their first MLS season together with extremely-high expectations and are literally the hottest ticket in the league according to StubHub and Vivid Seats.

A full house is expected at the newly-christened Chase Stadium.

Please keep checking this thread throughout the night for updates.

83rd minute: Messi-Suarez-Gomez extend lead

After what mostly had been a tightly-contested second half, Messi and Suarez made some magic in the open field in transition with Diego Gomez the benefactor. Messi split Real Salt Lake’s defenders on the run and a one-touch pass to Suarez was quickly redirected to Gomez, who fired a perfect crossing shot to put Inter Miami ahead 2-0 and seal the outcome.

Suarez exited the game in the 90th minute to a standing ovation and was replaced by Leo Campana.

Second half: Messi dribbles ball over injured Real Salt Lake player

Messi has amazed fans with his ball handling skills for over 18 years. But he still finds ways to open eyes.

During the second half of Wednesday’s game against Real Salt Lake, Messi maneuvered the ball near his opponent’s goal. A Real Salt Lake player lying on his back holding his wrist was in Messi’s path. It didn’t matter. Messi rolled the ball over his chest and ran around him quickly to pick his dribble back up and fire a shot that was blocked by a defender.

Footage of the play quickly went viral moments later.

39th minute: Robert Taylor scores season’s first goal

If you bet on Messi or any of Inter Miami’s “Big Four” scoring the first goal of the season...you were wrong.

The first tally came in the 39th minute and it was Robert Taylor who crossed a shot just past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Messi recorded his first assist of the season on the play as he delivered a through ball to Taylor, who controlled it on the inside of the box and scored. MacMath tried to smother the shot and got a piece of it, but not enough to slow its momentum as the ball rolled into the goal.

17th minute: Messi nearly scores on first free kick

Lionel Messi thrilled fans multiple times in his first season playing for Inter Miami with his incredible ability to score on free kicks from distance. He nearly gave fans another highlight in the 17th minute when he fired a free kick straightaway from close to 30 yards away that was headed away by Real Salt Lake’s Justen Glad just in front of the goal.

Messi drew the opportunity when he was taken down by Pablo Ruiz on a drive downfield resulting in Ruiz drawing the game’s first yellow card.

Inter Miami announces starting XI

As expected Messi, Suarez, Busquets and Alba will be in the starting lineup for Inter Miami as they play their first game for the club.

Robert Taylor gets the nod up front with Messi and Suarez. Busquets, Julian Gressel and Diego Gomez will be in the midfield, and Alba, DeAndre Yedlin, Serhiy Kryvstov and Tomas Aviles on the back row and Drake Callender in goal.

MLS Commissioner Garber Speaks Out on Referees’ Strike

Lionel Messi’s first full season with Inter Miami began Wednesday night with replacement officials in the MLS season opener against Real Salt Lake as the Professional Soccer Referees Association is on strike.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said he is optimistic that an agreement will be reached but said he is “frustrated”, adding he had no idea about the next step or a timetable.

Garber said the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which supplies officials to the MLS and other leagues, negotiated with PSRA for 20 bargaining sessions, had reached an agreement, but the membership did not support the agreement.

“I can’t remember in my 40 years of sports having a bargaining unit reach agreement and not have their members support it,” the commissioner said. “Very disappointing process, in my opinion, one that was intentional, or there’s a disconnect between the members and their elected negotiators.”

The PSRA picketed in New York City and Dallas on Wednesday. PRO locked out the union on Sunday.

“I don’t know how you get to a point where there’s a work stoppage and not know what it is that you’re disagreeing about,” Garber said. “That’s frustrating. I imagine it’s frustrating for fans. It’s certainly frustrating for us, but we’ll see how it plays out.

“I will tell you that we are very prepared and are more than willing to manage this in a way that’s in the best interest of our players, our teams, the best interest of our fans.”

MLS has said that PRO’s proposal included guaranteed pay increases of 10 percent to 33 percent for referees and 75 percent to 104 percent for assistant referees.

“I’m sitting here today with officials who I am confident will do a good job,” Garber said. “Not knowing how far PRO is apart from the PRSA, and that is just not something that I can say is normal in the bargaining dynamic.”

Celebrities arrive early

Former Miami Dolphins receiver and Miami Beach High alum Chad Ochocinco was among the first celebrities spotted attending Wednesday night’s game.

Former NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco spent some time on the field before Inter Miami took on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco spent some time on the field before Inter Miami took on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Ochocinco is an avid soccer fan and hung out at field level pregame.

Actor Will Smith was later sighted among those in the crowd getting ready to watch the game.

Suarez presented his jersey

Luis Suarez was presented to the home crowd just before kickoff by Inter Miami owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas. The club ownership presented Suarez with a new No. 9 jersey before he received a loud ovation for the crowd as fireworks went off.

Suarez took some pictures with his family, Mas and Beckham and then waved to the crowd.